Are you alone?
Oh, what a tough and painful topic this one is.
All too many dissociative survivors are alone. Alone with their pain. Alone with their memories. Alone within their system. Alone in relationships. Alone in a crowded room.
Far too many dissociative survivors feel painfully alone. Isolated. Alienated. Separated from others.
There are actually a few trauma survivors that genuinely prefer to be alone. I still ask — is this a result of their trauma? Would they have been such loners if they had not been so very deeply abused by so many different people? I suppose it’s hard to say. It’s not like they can undo the reality of what happened, so how can they take away the effects of the trauma to know what their personality would have been like otherwise? I still wonder. I have to believe it’s very likely that a great deal of their need for aloneness is a direct effect of severe trauma.
All too often, the being alone isn’t preferable, it’s just how it is. It’s hard not to feel alone if no one else understands what you are going through. Of course survivors are going to feel alone if they are carrying the burden – the knowledge and pain – of their abuse on their own. It’s hard to fathom that other people went through similar enough tortures. Is it possible that anyone else could really understand?
For many, it is just safer to be alone. If there’s no one there, there is no one there to cause the hurt, abuse, torment, torture…
And yet, for many, the actual experience of the abuse happened when they were purposefully separated away from their loved ones. The aloneness was part of the trauma experience itself. And the abusers controlled and insisted on this kind of aloneness staying in place so the abuse could continue undetected and uninterrupted. The parent that cared for them didn’t know and couldn’t be told because the abusers threatened to harm them if they ever found out. Or the siblings would be off playing in a different room, and they would be next if you didn’t cooperate.
Most abuser / perpetrators demand that their victims remain isolated and separate from all other people who could provide support and help. For example, no-talk rules and deprivation traumas are intended to keep survivors separated from others. Current-day isolation and alienation make survivors more vulnerable for ongoing abuse as well.
Alone back then.
And that carries over into being alone now.
Are you alone due to…
Your level of unrelenting emotional pain?
Your horrifying shame and overwhelming guilt feelings about the types of abuses you’ve experienced?
The fear that other people would hate you if they really knew what had happened in your life?
The utter embarrassment of being related to family members so deeply ingrained in dysfunction or organized crime and sexual perpetration?
The self-hatred you feel after being forced to actively participate in degrading and humiliating abuse situations?
The years and years of secrets that have created immense emotional walls in all your potential relationships?
The purposeful emotional separation from others in your family that could have (or still might) genuinely care for you?
The dissociative separation from others in your internal system?
Your denial – which separates you from your own self and your own history and your own system?
Not knowing anyone in your local neighborhood who has also suffered from severe trauma and abuse?
And do you have to stay this alone?
There is good news. You really do not have to stay as alone as you have been in the past.
Working on that sense of isolation is important in your healing process. It is also important for your safety.
The less alone you are, the less susceptible you are getting your needs met in dangerous ways, with dangerous people. Survivors that are isolated with their pain are particularly vulnerable to predators of all kinds.
What can you do?
- Continue to read and participate online. In the current day, there are hundreds of web sites and blogs created by or for dissociative trauma survivors. You can know you are not alone because others are speaking out and telling their stories.
- Join safe online support forums. While there are many good forums, I recommend that you be very careful in which online group you join. Be absolutely sure the forum you join is safe and/or that you are able to be safety-minded for your system. Go in knowing that some forum members may not be who they say they are.
- Participate actively in getting to know your internal system – let your own insiders become a sense of social support for you. Your own system can keep you very busy as you spend time with them.
- Join a local support group led by a competent therapist.
- Get deeply involved with your therapy and your healing process. The more you connect to yourself, the more you will be able to connect with others.
- Address your emotional pain, find healing for your shame, etc. The more healing you have, the less you will have to hide from other people.
- Challenge yourself on a regular basis to get more involved socially, even if that is very difficult for you. Explore your fears about it, and problem-solve with creative solutions for how to not let those fears keep you stuck in isolation.
- Join safe but fun social activities that have nothing to do with trauma topics – ie: exercise classes, yoga classes, needlepoint / stitching groups, softball leagues, bowling leagues, group music lessons, scrapbooking groups, etc.
- Start gradually, but slowly talk with your friends, your family members, your pastor, your AA sponsor, your real-life support people. Don’t overwhelm them with too much personal information at once, but bit by bit, begin to share more about who you are and what you’ve overcome in your life. Your story is worth telling!
- Write supportive comments to other survivors. The more you support others, the more kindness you will receive in return. You might have to be a friend in order to make a friend, so as you reach out to support other survivors, you can begin building that bond. Too many survivors look to others to support them without offering the same in return. Try turning that around and be a friendly source of support for others. They’ll remember that.
- If it is too frightening or frustrating to think of connecting with people at this point in time, start with getting a pet of your very own. Dogs, cats, bunnies, gerbils, even fish can be another source of life in your home and can make you feel less alone. Your pets will love the attention and interaction you give them, and as you build a bond with them, you will enjoy their companionship as well.
What are you going to do to overcome your feelings of alienation and separation?
How will you resolve your struggles of being alone?
I wish you the best in your healing journey.
Copyright © 2008-2018 Kathy Broady MSW and Discussing Dissociation